Aramide Olaniyan had waited patiently for his opportunity, sitting through a redshirt season last year and getting limited action on special teams this year, so you can understand his excitement when he finally made a play.
Olaniyan sacked California quarterback Zach Maynard last week on a third-down play, resulting in a four-yard loss. On the following play, Cal kicker Gior Tavecchio missed a 42-yard field goal that would have tied the score.
It turned out to be a momentum switcher as the Bruins cruised to a 31-14 victory.
"I had the biggest smile on my face and I was running up and down and trying to celebrate with every single person on that field and everyone on the sideline," Olaniyan said. "I just wanted to share that moment with all of my teammates. I was fired up."
Olaniyan had a difficult time keeping his spirits up while he wasn't getting on the field. At 215 pounds, the coaches thought he was too small to play defensive end, so they switched him to linebacker. But for the California game, they moved him back to defensive end in the quarter package to create some pressure with his speed.
"I'm sure the offensive linemen were wondering who is this skinny guy when they saw a guy about 215 lining up out there," Olaniyan said. "But size only matters so much. Strength and speed plays a lot into it also."
Olaniyan's personnel group was on the field for only a handful of plays, but he said he was happy to get any time at all after sitting on the sidelines for a season and a half.
"It was tough just kind of staying with it and being as enthusiastic," he said. "I just tried to keep working as hard as I could knowing that my time would eventually come. Now that it has come, I’m just looking back and seeing that hard work does pay off."
Now the trick is to keep getting on the field.
"Finally getting out there and making a play to help the defense out was definitely the greatest moment I’ve had since I’ve been at UCLA," Olaniyan said. "I just want to keep making plays like that in the near future."